How the Right’s Boycotts Are Hurting Target and Bud Light

Target and Bud Light are facing a backlash from conservative activists who are opposed to their support for LGBTQ targeting kids. The boycotts, which have been fueled by social media and culture wars, have reportedly affected the sales and stock prices of both brands. Experts say that the boycotts are part of a larger trend of polarization and pressure on brands to take sides on controversial issues.


6/4/20234 min read

mans face with white scarf
mans face with white scarf

How Target and Bud Light are losing money because of the boycott

Target and Bud Light are two of the latest companies to face a backlash from conservative activists who are opposed to their support for LGBTQ rights and visibility. The boycotts, which have been fueled by social media and culture wars, have reportedly affected the sales and stock prices of both brands, as well as raised concerns for employee safety.

Target's 'satanic' Pride collection

Target has been a longtime supporter of LGBTQ causes, and has been selling Pride merchandise for over a decade. However, this year, the retailer faced a fierce online campaign led by right-wing commentators who accused it of promoting a 'satanic' agenda with some of its products.

The products in question were a book called "The ABCs of Asexuality" and a T-shirt that read "Be Proud" with a rainbow pentagram. The critics claimed that these items were offensive to Christians and promoted occultism and sexual deviance.

Target initially defended its Pride collection, saying that it was "inclusive" and "celebrated" the LGBTQ community. However, after receiving violent threats from some customers, Target decided to pull some of the products from its shelves and disassemble some of its prominent Pride displays at some stores¹.

The move was seen as a sign of weakness by some LGBTQ advocates, who argued that Target was giving in to conservative pressure and abandoning its values. Others saw it as a pragmatic decision to protect its workers and customers from potential harm.

According to Business Insider, Target's stock price dropped by 2.5% on May 24, the day it announced its decision to remove some Pride items¹. The retailer also faced criticism from some investors who questioned its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Bud Light's trans influencer partnership

Bud Light, owned by Anheuser-Busch, also faced a boycott from conservative groups after it partnered with Dylan Mulvaney, a trans influencer and TikTok star, in early April. Mulvaney posted a video on TikTok showing off a package of Bud Light beers that he received from the company, along with a note that read "Happy Trans Day of Visibility."

The video went viral and sparked outrage among some social media users who accused Bud Light of supporting an "abomination" and a "mental illness." Some also threatened to boycott the brand and switch to other beers.

Anheuser-Busch said that it received threats against several of its facilities following the backlash against its brands. The company issued a statement saying that it was "proud" of its partnership with Mulvaney and that it stood by its values of "inclusion, equality and belonging."¹

However, the boycott seemed to have an impact on Bud Light's sales and market share. According to The Street, Bud Light's sales volume declined by 5.7% in April compared to the same month last year². The brand also lost 0.6% of its market share in the US beer industry².

Bud Light was not the only Anheuser-Busch brand to face a boycott. Some conservatives also targeted Michelob Ultra, Stella Artois and Corona for their support for LGBTQ causes. Some even called for a boycott of Chick-fil-A, the conservative-leaning fast food chain that is famously closed on Sundays in honor of the Christian day of rest, after it was revealed that it had donated $25,000 to Anheuser-Busch's foundation².

The rise of culture wars and social media

Experts say that the boycotts against Target and Bud Light are part of a larger trend of culture wars and social media activism that have polarized the American society and put pressure on brands to take sides on controversial issues.

Lawrence Glickman, a professor of American Studies at Cornell University and the author of "Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America," said that these boycotts came at a time when the right was making a big deal about trans issues¹.

"If you watch a lot of conservative media, you might be very panicked about this. And so this is a way you can sort of assert your concern for that cause," he said¹.

Glickman described the current situation as "kind of a perfect storm" that forces brands to either back down or face a firestorm¹.

Joanna Schwartz, a marketing professor at Georgia College & State University who specializes in LGBTQ marketing, said that companies are getting backlash that they have never gotten before³.

"It's really hard to find products that completely disregard the LGBT market altogether, but companies are going to have to be careful about the way that they do product drops, just given the extreme nature of the political environment in the United States," she said³.

Schwartz added that companies should not be deterred by the boycotts, but rather use them as an opportunity to engage with their customers and show their authenticity³.

"Companies need to be prepared to have a conversation with their consumers, and not just put out a product and hope for the best," she said³. "They need to be able to explain why they're doing what they're doing, and why it matters to them and to their consumers."

Source: Conversation with Bing, 6/4/2023

(1) Target, Bud Light Boycotts Working Due to Social Media, Culture War.

(2) Chick-fil-A Is Latest Target of the Bud Light Boycott Movement.

(3) Target Is Fast Becoming the New Bud Light.

(4) Target boycott won’t be as impactful as Bud Light backlash: Ted Cruz.

(5) The Target boycott over it’s “satanic” pride collection ... - Vox.